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PARKOUR VS. FREE RUNNING


What is the difference between Parkour and Free Running?

The difference between parkour and freerunning typically comes down to the types of moves used by the person engaged in the activity and whether there is any form of competition. Parkour is generally viewed as an acrobatic means of getting from one point to another in the most efficient and direct manner possible. Freerunning is, on the surface, nearly identical to parkour, except additional moves can be added for purely aesthetic flair, such as spins and flips. The two also typically differ in that parkour is meant to be free from competition, while freerunning can be performed competitively in a way more similar to a sport.

Both activities share the same origin, though they have diverged from each other in certain ways. In general, this form of athletic activity stems from observations of various forms of movement used in French military training, as well as movements used by Vietnamese firefighters. These methods were further developed and refined by several individuals, perhaps most notably David Belle and Sébastien Foucan. The clearest divide between parkour and freerunning can be seen in the different styles of Belle and Foucan, as each has become a leading figure in the two different forms.

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Parkour Vs. Freerunning
Parkour and freerunning are dynamic forms of urban athletics. Photo Credit Matt Henry Gunther/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Parkour and freerunning are two related but different forms of urban athletics. In both, practitioners run, climb and jump to move through an area, which is often a landscape crowded with obstacles. The two activities share many techniques, but have different goals and philosophies.

Parkour

French athlete David Belle, together with a group of associates, developed the discipline of parkour in Paris in the 1990s. Parkour, the name of which derives from a French word meaning "route," is a system of movement that takes the most direct route between two points. Parkour was developed in urban environments. Most traceurs, as they're called, practice in these environments. This route can involve leaping over obstacles, climbing walls, or traveling along rooftops. Parkour practitioners value spatial awareness, efficiency of movement and a knowledge of the urban landscape.

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Freerunning

The term "freerunning" was coined by Sebastien Foucan and was originally meant to describe parkour to an English-speaking audience. However, the term eventually developed to mean a somewhat different discipline that combined the techniques of parkour with acrobatics and gymnastics. Freerunners prize creativity, self-expression and the ability to improvise.

Similarities

Parkour and freerunning share a common origin. Many of the specific techniques of jumping and climbing exist in both parkour and freerunning. Both also emphasize awareness of the environment. Traceurs and freerunners operate in similar environments. Organizations involved with one are often involved with both. For example, the Parkour and Freerunning Awards celebrate both disciplines. Making the distinction between parkour and freerunning can often be tricky.

Differences

The fundamental difference between parkour and freerunning is one of philosophy. Parkour's philosophy is more utilitarian than that of freerunning. In a 2007 interview with "The New Yorker," David Belle explained that parkour should be useful, calling it "a very different mind-set from just doing things to look good." By contrast, freerunning has a more playful, performance-oriented philosophy, in which flips and jumps can be a form of self-expression. The individual's desires and freedom are considered more important than strict rules.